Fo­cused Amla not keen to hash on his mighty Oval triple ton

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

ON THE OC­CA­SION of its 100th Test match, there’s nat­u­rally been a lot of rem­i­nisc­ing at The Oval this week and there’ll con­tinue to be over the com­ing days.

South Africa’s ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to the sto­ried ground’s 137-year his­tory strode across the out­field yes­ter­day, hav­ing com­pleted train­ing, and said that while his in­nings here five years ago will al­ways re­main spe­cial, it’s not some­thing he’s keen to fo­cus on this week.

Hashim Amla’s 311 is still the high­est Test score by a South African and while cel­e­brated in South Africa, in these parts it doesn’t hold the same rev­er­ence as Len Hut­ton’s 364 – in 1938 a then world record – or even Viv Richards’ 291 in 1976.

In the lat­ter’s case that was a flam­boy­ant ef­fort that typ­i­fied the method of one of the all-time great Test teams, while Hut­ton’s ef­fort nearly 80 years ago is still the high­est Test score by an English­man.

Amla’s per­for­mance in 2012 was a mas­ter class in pa­tient bat­ting that in­ter­spersed pe­ri­ods of calm with mo­ments of clas­sic stroke-play. He mas­tered Eng­land’s fine off-spin­ner Graeme Swann, nudg­ing and flick­ing him smartly on the leg-side, and when Swann drifted wide of the off-stump, Amla would un­leash the cover drive. As his in­nings con­tin­ued, the sweep be­came a fea­ture – a demon­stra­tion of how he changed strat­egy against Swann, who was left ex­as­per­ated and in­jured, and was dropped for the sec­ond Test of the se­ries. Amla, has sought to sup­press those mem­o­ries as South Africa at­tempt to take a lead in what has been a top­sy­turvy se­ries. “I re­mem­ber just try­ing to bat as long as I can, and thank­fully I did,” he said of his 13 hours and 10 min­utes at the crease. “The one thing I re­mem­ber, we were bowl­ing on the first day, Eng­land were in a good po­si­tion af­ter day one and the way we came back the next day, bowl­ing them out (for 385), that was the turn­ing point in the game; it got us back in. To win that Test, the fight we showed is what stayed with me from the last time we played here.

“A lot of cricket has hap­pened since; I don’t think there’ll be any thoughts of that (in­nings). I find things that hap­pened in the past, if you linger too long on them, it be­comes more of a dis­trac­tion.”

Asked if he was still the same player as five years ago, Amla quipped: “I’ve got the same name.”

His statis­tics are not quite the same, though. Be­fore that triple cen­tury, he’d scored two cen­turies and four half­cen­turies in his pre­vi­ous 13 in­nings, but this year his form’s not been as pro­lific – just one cen­tury and three fifties in 15 in­nings.

But there did ap­pear to be a re­minder of the Amla of 2012 in the way he played in the sec­ond Test in Not­ting­ham last week when knocks of 78 and 87 sug­gested he was get­ting back to some good Test form.

“I’ve trained as tough as I can; that’s im­por­tant for me, whether the scores come or not. It’s about ap­ply­ing your­self and let­ting the score take care of it­self.”

South Africa look by far the more set­tled of the two teams ahead of to­mor­row morn­ing’s start.

They’ll make just one change, bring­ing in Kag­iso Rabada for Duanne Olivier, while Eng­land will pon­der changes to their bat­ting – whether to add an ex­tra bats­man – or their bowl­ing, to drop one of Mark Wood or Liam Daw­son.

The only con­firmed change to Joe Root’s side that lost at Trent Bridge will be a de­but for Tom West­ley in place of the in­jured Gary Bal­lance.

“Any team that’s won the last game will carry some mo­men­tum or pos­i­tiv­ity with them, so... we carry that. And hav­ing (coach) Rus­sell (Domingo) and KG (Kag­iso Rabada) back helps us. We’re a set­tled team... that is good for us,” said Amla.

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